It’s dangerous in this town to make a sweeping statement about something or some place being the best. It’s a sure fire way to create an uproar.* But whatever. I’m going to take that risk.
In my opinion the best breakfast in town is at Caiola’s. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some hash browns and cheddar grits at Hot Suppa, but there is something truly special about Caiola’s. It’s the place you take your mother when she’s in town**. It’s where you take someone when it’s their birthday (bloody marys and two sizes of mimosas if it’s that kind of Sunday). Even the atmosphere is indulgent.
I have the horrible misfortune of not liking eggs, so I am limited in my options. But if I liked eggs I would love them at Caiola’s. They look and sound incredible (if you like eggs), and people rave about them. This morning my table shared a pumpkin coffee cake that was offensively delicious. My pancakes came soon after and they were literally cakes. I smeared them with greek yogurt (speckled with vanilla), added fruit and mint, and dipped them in syrup. As you might imagine I did not finish them. I made it to the half way point and caved. And then I didn’t eat again until 4:30pm (over six hours later).
Caiola’s only serves breakfast on Sundays and your best bet is to make a reservation. If you don’t make a reservation you’ll be hungry, waiting an hour, and the hostess will seem kind of unfriendly. Go on a cold morning and enjoy the ambiance - there’s always a sprinkle of Etta on the speakers, laced with other classics. And make sure to look at the specials menu. It changes often and is always decadent.
*also true when you say something isn’t what it used to be. I once made that mistake with Downtown Lounge. But, you know…
**like this morning. These photos probably make my dad wish he had come.
A year ago I deleted my Facebook account.*
It was actually the second time I had done this. The first time was a year before, and it was meant to be a break. And it was great. Which was what made it so easy to do the second time.
My reasons for getting off of Facebook** were pretty straight forward. People weren’t posting anything I found interesting. I found that people I liked in real life I didn’t like on Facebook. I was unimpressed with the running stream of people’s lives, posts that got more mundane over time. I was unable to use it creatively. I could only handle so many pictures of people’s pets, mothers complaining about their kids and boasting about how many glasses of wine they’d had, and at what time they’d started drinking, selfies (so many selfies), and the overall pissing contest that is Facebook.
There is some level of disconnect with people by not having Facebook. You do lose touch with some people. But what I’ve found is that you lose touch with the people that you naturally would have lost touch with if you didn’t have an artificial digital connection. I think that’s ok, because it’s natural to lose touch with people, just like it’s natural to make new friends. I find it can be exhausting trying to maintain a friendship with every person I’ve ever met. In contrast, it is really wonderful to see whom you do keep in touch with outside of social media, including some people you thought you’d drift apart from.
I read something in the New York Times last May that did a nice job of articulating the difference between Tumblr and Facebook:
”People…have found themselves drifting away from Facebook in favor of creative tools that encourage them to make things, rather than share every bit of minute detail about their lives.”
”There’s something about the creativity of strangers on these other platforms that seems more interesting and creative, even more than the people I know in real life.”
“The 300 million people who visit the site [Tumblr] each month come “not because their friends are here,” Mr. Karp said. “It’s because the content they want to consume and make is here.””
The one thing I miss is seeing photos of family members I do not see often, or very close friends’ children growing up. But it makes it all the sweeter when I do see these people, and it is much clearer to me that these bonds are forged out of real moments, not just brief, expected comments on a webpage.
When I think about Facebook now it seems out-of-date. Friends that I thought would be tethered to it for life have deactivated their accounts. Nothing meaningful is happening on Facebook. For me personally, it does not serve a purpose. I feel like I have more privacy in my life. Ultimately, I see Facebook as something I just don’t care about anymore.
*full disclosure, I selected the ‘I might be back’ option because at the time I thought, “meh, maybe”. I wish I had just wiped the slate clean.
**’getting off Facebook’ sounds like kicking a drug, huh?
In anticipation of being back in the Midcoast area soon I recently signed up for a membership to the Belfast Co-op. I think the idea of a traditional co-op model is lost on many people these days, especially those of my generation or younger.
When you join a co-op you’re buying a share of the business, and you’ll have a voice in how it is run. At the end of the year any surplus sales are returned to members. The Belfast co-op also provides bulk discounts to members (think 20% off trays of local, organic berries in the summertime), special member discount days, and member appreciation events. It’s a pretty rad way to support your community and eat healthy at the same time. This co-op in particular buys produce and products from local growers and businesses whenever possible.
The first time you sign up for three years upfront, although you can spread the payment out. For one adult it is $60 for three years. Each year after is $25, and only $10 for each additional adult in your family.
The Belfast Co-op is like the original Whole Foods before Whole Foods was around, but on a seriously local level. What’s not to love about that?
Make for one starry-eyed Monday.
The nights have been dark and cold and silent. I have been sleeping so deeply that I wonder where my mind goes during those strange hours. My complete and utter loss of consciousness leaves me feeling like my mind and my body have detached. I am both rested and more tired at the same time. Waking up to a gray morning (and a white ground) made getting out of bed tedious, even at 8am.
Thanksgiving was quiet in a way, but it also felt joyful and indulgent. It felt like Christmas some how, and now that Christmas is coming I feel spoiled, and like I’ve broken the rules and am getting away with it.
I am resentful of my vehicle and driving. I am eager to shed myself of that daily habit. I’m glad that I have made a choice for myself that allows me to be less tethered to my car. It is amazing the damage a long commute can do to a spirit. Soon I will be free.
This December 1st saw snow, just like the last. So many things are the same. So many are different. I am happy with the changes, and hopeful that they, and I, are moving ever forward in the right direction.
I’ve decided that next spring and summer I will take advantage of my surroundings and run the hiking trails I used to hike. I will get faster, and tougher, and feel connected to my homeland all the more.
December is for being grateful of all the things the past year brought. It is for relaxing and settling in and finding calm. It is for celebrating whatever in your life gives it meaning, and leaning a little further into it, for your own sake.
Decorations. Au naturale.
This week I’ve seen multiple trucks piled high with neatly stacked trees heading south on the interstate. I hope you enjoy your real Maine Christmas tree!
What it means to live Maine: Part II
you can read part I here.
To be a Mainer means to be a hard worker. Whether it be farming, working a trade, putting oneself through school, building one’s own house, running a business, being the neighborhood handyman, or just working a professional job. This State has a culture of working hard. There are few things as disappointing to people as laziness.
I think it goes back to our humble beginnings as those who worked the land and sea and fought off the harsh winter. Maine was slow to modernize and much of the population is still in rural areas where people make their living with their hands. Entitlement only comes from your own sweat and muscle and helping your neighbors.
I can’t think of a better embodiment of working hard than firewood. Trees have to be felled, cut into smaller pieces, chopped or split into logs, stacked to dry, lugged inside for the winter, and brought up to the wood stove every few days. When you heat with firewood at no point are you removed from the process.
A few weeks ago I visited my parents for ‘family firewood weekend’*. In a few hours we had roughly four cords stacked in the basement and garage so that my parents would be ready for the winter. There is no sugar coating it - firewood is mostly a hassle - but there’s something unique in having a hand in the hard work it takes to get fuel to your door. The trees came from my family’s land, my brother split the logs, and we all carried them inside, stacking rows upon rows, until the work was done.
There are many ways that people exhibit their work ethic, some more subtle than others. Working hard is part of what it means to live Maine.
*I am not joking.
When I was 16-years-old I visited Boston and I was never the same. I graduated high school two years later and headed for the City as fast as I could. There was no looking back. Maine was a burden I was happy to be free of.
I spent six years in Boston and they hold a special place in my heart. I made deep, invaluable friends there. I gained some great work experience. I stretched my wings and learned a thing or two about independence. I became a runner there. But Boston has a way of bringing on bitterness and I was not to be spared. The older I got the more out of place I felt in the biggest college town in the Country.
Two years after graduating college something funny started to happen to my heart. I began to see the beauty in Maine and relate to the simpler lifestyle there. You may think I’m generalizing, and maybe I am a bit, but I am not exaggerating. I wanted to feel connected to the land and the ocean and the mountains, not to street lights and pavement and a high cost of living.
I couldn’t bring myself to head north yet so instead I headed to Pennsylvania for what was meant to be a temporary adventure and I began applying to grad school. The message in my cover letters was the same: I wanted to do work that would benefit my home state. All of a sudden Maine was a priority to me.
Last week I accepted a job in the community I grew up in; a job responsible for helping shape and support the community.
When the job opportunity came up I was excited and a little bit nervous. Did I really want to go back home? I thought back to my grad school applications and I knew I really didn’t have a choice. This was exactly what I had always talked about, what I wanted. There is no question in my mind that I am the right person for this job.
My friends and family have been more supportive than I could have asked for. They told me I had to take this job before I had fully realized it. They wanted me to have this role in their community. I am grateful for that support.
I am sad to leave Portland. I wish I could hold onto this City a little bit longer. I know that I would feel this way no matter when I left, though, even if it was years from now.
In a few months The Old Pine Tree will be based in the Midcoast area. I hope you’ll stick around for the adventure.
Last week I went to Wiscasset to visit Chewonki for work. What a special spot they have, and what interesting educational programs available for kids. I was there to meet someone and check out a new biomass boiler*, but I got to see all of their fuel systems. They had every fuel source except natural gas (doesn’t reach most of Maine, let alone a somewhat remote forested peninsula). I saw a (non-working) fuel cell. The control board looked like something right out of LOST. I also saw a biofuel conversion system, and a (noisy) geothermal boiler. The last thing we checked out was the wind tower that was perched on a hill on the farm that bordered the ocean.
We had lunch with the kids in the dining hall, a space that is heated solely by passive solar right now (because the biomass boiler isn’t hooked up yet). Food is always locally sourced. We were served baked haddock, roasted root vegetables, and rice cakes (cooked with onions, garlic, and herbs. they were surprisingly indulgent). The students were high school Juniors who were there for a semester. One of the girls cabins had the ability to go off-grid and was powered by a solar panel the girls had secured to a hiking pole. If their lights dimmed a little before they were ready to shut them out for the night they could get on a mountain bike and cycle for extra power. For the entire semester they take the same classes they would at the high schools they came from (around Maine), but all of them are focused around environmental education. These 17-year-olds knew how to run a blower door test and do an energy audit, and where helping to run a farm.
And that’s not all. Chewonki also has an animal lab and an aviary. In the animal lab there was a young alligator, turtles, bats, lizards, and a tarantula. The aviary recently adopted two baby screech owls, which they had in the courtyard after lunch for people to view (but not touch!**). The aviary also had a bald eagle whose wings were too weak to fly because of an old injury. He was quite the talker. Also, he looked just like a turkey.
I was lucky to get to spend so much time at Chewonki and really see what they do there. My co-worker joked that he would pick me up at the end of the semester. Yes please.
*you’re so jealous
**they are so cute. All you want to do is nuzzle them.
In something that is so clear and crisp, sharp and real. It demands attention and almost shines in its intensity.
What it means to live Maine: Part I
When I moved back to Maine in 2010 buying local was cool all over the country and everyone was doing it (and everyone was a hipster. Old Navy had started selling skinny jeans). Even Republicans.
Maybe the fact that buying local was cool made Maine cooler than it’s ever been before (also probably because, thanks to the original hipster, LLBean - boots, flannel, ruggedness - was suddenly cool, which meant everything I’d ever known was turned on its head). In Maine we take it one step further. Not only are people fiercely passionate about supporting local businesses (it often gets political), but people tend to live locally.
Aside from leaving for work a few days a week I do everything in town, usually without my car: frequenting local restaurants (the selection gets better and better every year), watching minor league sports, hitting the parks to run or throw the disc, drinking local brew (kombucha, beer, cider, smoothies), seeing intimate musical performances, and so on.
One big way I live locally is to maintain a garden. It doesn’t get any closer to home than growing your own vegetables. I love giving away jars of dilly beans or pickled beets and being able to say “made with organic beets grown in Portland”.
Getting my hands in local soil, growing local produce, eating local, healthy food. Just one way I live Maine.